AEW Column: A Note On Sports Presentation

There seems to be some confusion.

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So recently there’s been a lot of debate and dissension over one of the hallmarks of the AEW product. Namely the idea that it’s meant to be a sports-oriented brand of professional wrestling. Everyone in AEW up to and including Tony Khan himself have espoused this, but I think many have taken this to mean something different than what was intended.

I can’t blame anyone for this as I was a bit confused for a time myself. It seemed like a curious task to try and reconcile the outlandishness of BTE and it’s characters with a fully legitimatized product. It seemed impossible and… well, yeah, it would’ve been. I mean if you wanted to present a product like it was a complete shoot, you uh, probably wouldn’t have the Young Bucks involved, or any high fliers or any hardcore wrestlers. In fact you’d probably have to say goodbye to masked luchadors. You’d have to take out much of what makes up modern wrestling, which was not the stated intent at all. It was never meant as a hearkening back to the Hackenschmidt and Gotch days.

The key thing here is the word ‘presentation’.

Because by and large, that’s how the EVPs put it, it’s a sports-like presentation. What that means is how it’s covered, both in terms of how the commentators discuss the goings on and in how it’s presented through web series like the Road To videos. Ultra serious high production docu-style works of that nature. It also spreads to ideas like win/loss records, and the emphasis on results. This would contrast against, say, commentators bickering with each other for the brunt of a match. Or going out of your way to highlight real-life appearances where wrestlers break character. Or, yannow, just outright telling people that wins and losses don’t matter.

It applies to booking only in the sense that someone on a deep losing streak won’t suddenly be in line for title contention. In other words, you won’t be able to Jinder your way into a championship. There’s certainly no sport that would allow for that kind of scenario, not that I can think of.

They’ve even raised the idea of taking it further than mere win/loss records but also showing detailed statistics. Who they lose against, what the pinfall-submission ratio is, what holds are most effective, things like that. This is all sports oriented in the sense that the promotion itself, those behind the camera, would appear to take pro wrestling as a serious sport.

But by no means does that dictate that a wrestler has to act a certain way.

Just because the show you’re on is presented one way does not necessarily mean you have to conform to it. And the biggest star athletes often are those who break from the mold. I think it’s fair to say that any sport has it’s characters and sometimes it seeps into how they perform. Dennis Rodman existed, The Boz existed, Anthony Pettis’ cagekicks existed… that’s not even getting into things like mascots and the like. It’s not as though legit sports are bereft of goofiness.

So the Orange Cassidys and Michael Nakazawas and Librarians of the world can in fact co-exist with this mentality, believe it or not. And no, none of them are going to kill AEW, let alone wrestling as a whole. If you’re one of the lucky ones like me that can get a kick out of them, great. But if you can’t, just remember it’s a small piece of a huge sport…

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